Over fifteen years ago, Melvin Burkholder entered the world of business ownership by solidifying his niche as a pole barn builder in his community in central Ohio. Burkholder explains that much has changed since then. “We started as a pole barn builder however, I was always fascinated by the demolition processes of buildings. I guess we gradually became involved in salvaging old buildings, with the help of an old friend, a county commissioner. He is the one that helped us by securing connections with property owners who wished to remove their old barns,” explained Burkholder.
One of the first salvaging projects that Burkholder became involved in was on his own property. He and several community members repurposed old barn wood to build an exquisite country fabric store which currently serves the community as well as Mennonites from several neighboring counties.
The main frame of this first reclaimed project measured 40x60, according to Burkholder. The crew of Old Order Mennonites then erected a 40x60 new-cut hickory timber frame building, marrying the two old and new buildings which today serves as the country fabric store.
Most of the old barns which Burkholder salvages are located within the states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Michigan, and Kentucky. He explains that today, he simply purchases old barn packages from demolition crews. This provides him with the opportunity to purchase and re-sell the packages without having to deal with the risky process of demolition. “Most times, the salvaging crew knows what I am looking for in a barn, and I will generally make payment for the barn upon delivery.”
The barns are carefully dismantled, where at that point the lumber is then loaded onto semi-trailers and delivered to Triple B Enterprise’s headquarters. On a typical week, Burkholder receives two to three barns for repurposing. The oldest barn he has repurposed had originally been built in the 1860s.
When salvaging an old barn, the siding is typically removed first, followed by the roof. Next on the demolition list is removing all the floorboards. The purlin plates are next in line, followed by the lower plates. The bent sections will be the last of the frame; five bents typically comprise the rough skeleton of the barns which Burkholder purchases. The heavy timbers (undercarriage) are the last in the removal process.
“White oak is the number one seller,” Burkholder explained while we walked around his lot which was piled high in every corner with various types of lumber. “Walnut, hickory, beech, maple, elm, ash, and chestnut are all lumber we use as well. Chestnut is, however, very sporadic here. Since white oak is a very dense wood, it possesses a pretty grain and has an overall appealing character, therefore it is the first choice for many buyers searching for a nice repurposed look. Plus, this closed-spore wood weathers consistently slower when compared to other wood types. It just responds and adapts to the elements better.”
Ninety percent of the wood that is currently sitting on Burkholder’s massive lot will eventually be used in the construction of new homes. Some projects will include fancy resorts and attractive mountain lodges. Large numbers of summer homes will also be constructed from his inventory of old barn lumber. “What we are seeing over the last five years now, is a considerable increase in the standard construction. This is especially true for our local regions, which includes Columbus. What they do, is take a few old beams where we flat-saw them, pressure-wash and clean the beams which will then be placed right up against the ceiling.”